Kiip works with thousands of developers, so it only makes sense for us to interview the masterminds behind the apps we integrate into. In this Q&A, we meet Alex Kozachenko, President of Apps-O-Rama and Hyperbeard Games, which we will be featuring in this Developer Spotlight. Check out Alex’s responses below and the lessons he’s learned while developing and monetizing apps.
What is HyperBeard Games?
We are team based in Mexico City dedicated to making awesome games. We love creating highly polished experiences that are full of character. Hyperbeard Games was founded in 2014 and our biggest hit to date has been KleptoCats, a game where you send out your virtual cat to steal stuff and bring awesome things back to your room. It’s purrrfect -haha!
Tell me about yourself and your role at HyperBeard Games.
My name is Alex Kozachenko, otherwise known as “el Presidente,” or at least that’s what my team calls me (possibly ironically). I was not a founding member but was fortunate enough to discover HyperBeard Games when it was still in its infancy. At the time, the company was just two dudes who loved to make games that I thought were actually really good. In 2015, we worked together to release a game called The Balloons and then went on to launch our most popular apps, KleptoCats and Alchademy, in 2016. I manage analytics, business development, and monetization, among other things but they don’t let me touch the creative side -which is probably wise.
How big is your development team?
There are eight of us in total: three artists, two developers, one PR person, and a Director of Gaming. We really believe what makes us great is our ability to put out ideas, go back and forth, and arrive at collaborative solutions. At the end of the day, we do what’s best for the game. We like to run really flat. Nobody’s opinion is weighted more than another person’s.
What tools help you work (what are your favorite)?
We love Unity. Generally speaking, we come from more of a creative/artsy background than a technical one and Unity has built a platform that caters well to our level of technical expertise. They also make it really easy to integrate services so it’s kind of a one stop shop. We use Unity Ads, Unity IAP, Unity Analytics, and some others I’m sure I am forgetting. The tool consolidation has been really helpful for us.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned when building a mobile app?
Build fast! Long projects suck. We built the prototype for KleptoCats in less than a week, soft launched it in less than a month, and globally launched it in less than two months. People don’t really think about momentum when they plan a project but it’s a really powerful thing. You don’t realize how much efficiency you lose when you experience fatigue. Our sister company, www.bow3.com just soft launched a game called Clawbert after just two weeks. After killing games that they had spent 1 and 1.5 months on, respectively prototyping, it felt amazing to get an app out that people seem to love. I guess game development is kind of like sports. When you have a wave of momentum, it can overpower pretty much everything else in the best way.
Any advice for developers creating their first app?
- Don’t be afraid to share it early. If you find yourself saying “it’s not ready” a lot, you’ve got problems. Reconsider your line of work or start over and share early. You need to be able to handle criticism.
- Don’t trust what people say, trust what people do. A follow up to that is -soft launch your game. Nothing hurts more than saying, “our game is so awesome and everyone says so too” and then launching it globally and seeing a 10% Day One retention. Trust me, we know.
- Start small and build every day. If you can’t show much progress on a feature after a while, question whether you should even be building that feature.
Tell me about your experience with mobile monetization. What works, what doesn’t?
In-app purchases are still the best. They have the most stability and are not nearly as cyclical. But that isn’t an option for most game developers. Getting people to buy stuff is not easy. This is one of the first lessons you learn when you release your first game, right after you learn that getting people to download your game is not easy.
You need to supplement with ads but not every ad is created equal and not every ad is intrusive to the user experience. Some ads are actually complementary to your user experience. Rewarded ads are, generally speaking, cheap ways to enhance the user experience and get you paid without having to develop in depth monetization loops and monetization mechanics. We often have people complain about not seeing enough ads because they like them so much and want more currency.
What do you like about moment-based rewards and Kiip?
Moment-based rewards are cool because it’s hard to show two ad videos in fairly quick succession without being intrusive to the user experience. (Also, the CPMs on 2nd view kind of blow.) Showing a video and immediately offering a moment-based reward doesn’t feel bad and the return is much higher. Kiip offers solutions in a space that not a lot of other ad providers are playing in and the incremental revenue is harder to find elsewhere.
What excites you most about the mobile space right now?
We very much consider ourselves an indie studio. I’m not sure we’ll ever want to change that. Mobile is one of the few areas where we feel like we can not only survive but thrive. There are soooo many different users and demographics of gamers out there. You don’t have to be a top 10 gaming company or title to do well. If that ever changes, I’ll be sad.
What emerging trends do you hope to see become commonplace?
Consolidation is sexy. Speaking from the perspective of a company that’s had to figure a lot of stuff out in a relatively small amount of time, it’s really helpful to have all your services handled by fewer companies. Whether it’s a Unity ‘stack’ or a Google ‘stack’ or another player that comes into the market and starts crushing it or buying up other players, having one vendor that services pretty much all your needs is super helpful. Not everyone can afford to have one highly specialized employee in charge of each area of a gaming business. So I guess I’d like to see consolidation continue.
What’s next for HyperBeard Games?
Well, we have two titles launching in the next couple of months. One is a word game which we think is going to be really addictive. The other is a level-based tapper which we think could be huge. Speaking more long-term, we want to keep growing and make our games progressively more complicated with higher monetization. Maybe we’ll expand to consoles and other gaming platforms beyond mobile at some point. Of course we know to be careful. Momentum is a hell of a thing and tomorrow is never guaranteed so we plan to keep moving forward. Onward and upward!